The Art of Photography

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Find symbols for a number of concepts describe how you might use them in a photograph.
Our subjects are:
growth, excess, crime, silence and poverty.

I have found this challenge very interesting.  I've carried a notebook around with me for several weeks while I thought about this. I was trying to think of symbols that are different not a cliche. Well that is extremely difficult.  I've spent hours in the bookstores looking at book covers to see what ideas have already been used.  For example crime novels tend to have either a dagger, drops of blood, a murder victim or graphics on the cover.
I also thought long and hard about how the photo might be used. I was reminded of the HSBC ads where they use an image and show it can mean the opposite depending on the culture. I thought of where this could happen within my subject range.  An example is a photo of a child's hand in an adults hand.  This could indicate growth on the cover of a political manifesto.  Equally it could imply crime in a police poster.
I thought of various symbols for each subject.  I then went through my photos to see if I could find images that might be able to be used.  I came up with the following:


The industrial bee is often used as a symbol of hard work so I felt a good symbol for growth.  I thought of many other symbols that are often used to represent growth. Plants, money modern skyscrapers.  These are all positive symbols of growth.  I then thought about growth as a negative and thought of cancer, over population, a different symbol would need to be used for these subjects.


The first thing that came to mind was Versailles. A photo of the mirror hall makes one think of excess. A table groaning with food. A fat stomach overflowing out of pants with shirt buttons bursting.


When I thought about symbols for crime I came up with a list of objects like padlock, barbed wire, security cameras, all things that hint at protecting oneself or defending oneself.  Then I thought of objects like a knife or gun, things that hurt one. Most images relating to crime do so in a violent way. I then thought about a business man dressed nicely carrying a briefcase to symbolise what is termed white collar crime. Most symbols used do so by working on fear. So I used the picture above, with two symbols often used to demonstrate crime.  The look of fear in the little girls face and the way she is clutching her handbag, a symbol of possessions. Is she afraid for her possessions or her personal safety.

I immediately thought of a church for silence. A place where one contemplates.  I also thought of a graveyard.  I have combined the two in the above image and have by use of a slow shutter speed added the figure of a man so that he appears as a ghost.
Other symbols that came to mind were a finger to ones lips, a person signing (the silence of the deaf). I also thought of a butterfly, a white room with a single white chair in it.


This is perhaps a little too obvious as an image for poverty. A bit of a cliche. But probably most of my ideas for this subject do come into that category.  I thought of a darned sock, a shoe with the sole coming apart. Discarded furniture, a broken pushchair.  I then thought of a dinner plate with baked beans and a fried egg on it.

Overall though this exercise has been really good for making me think about how I am going to get a picture to say what I want it to. It's no good my knowing what was happening if my image doesn't say it to the viewer who wasn't there.  All the exercises in this module have made me think a lot about what pictures I need to take for the final narrative. Actually they are making me think in general about my pictures.  What do I want to say, how am I going to get it really display those messages/emotions.

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